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Written by Dr. Chaw Su Kyi on May 16, 2023
One common concern when straightening teeth is how your smile will look throughout treatment. Fixed braces are typically attached to the front of your teeth to create a constant force that produces movements improving the appearance of your smile. Having braces on the outside of the teeth can make people feel self-conscious.
Lingual or Incognito hidden braces provide the same function as these traditional appliances but are kept from view. Instead of being fixed to the front of your teeth, lingual braces are attached to the back. Because they face your tongue, lingual braces are a great cosmetic alternative to conventional braces.
Like traditional metal braces, lingual braces use brackets and wires. There are, however, some differences compared to other orthodontic treatments.
In this guide, we will discuss everything you need to know about teeth straightening treatment using virtually invisible lingual braces, providing a complete comparison with other fixed options.
Lingual braces are designed to correct orthodontic issues. Unlike other braces, lingual braces remain hidden at the back of your teeth, so they do not obstruct your smile during treatment.
Although they have a discreet and innovative design, the way lingual braces work to straighten your teeth is very similar to traditional fixed braces.
We will place a series of custom-made brackets on the back of every tooth along the arch we’re correcting. These are firmly fixed into place to support the archwire. Once in place, tension along this wire creates a gentle force that will slowly move your teeth into their new position.
As with conventional braces, we will periodically adjust the tension along the wire throughout your treatment. This creates small, incremental movements. Over your entire treatment, these tiny adjustments add up to a noticeable difference in the appearance of your smile.
What Can Lingual Braces Treat?
Incognito lingual braces are a versatile orthodontic treatment that can help with various malocclusions. Here is what we can achieve with lingual braces:
We also often use Incognito hidden braces to treat various complex bite problems, including:
Correcting these problems will give you a more aesthetically pleasing smile and improve your self-confidence. There are, however, several other key oral health benefits.
Aligning your teeth will make it easier to maintain good oral hygiene standards, thus reducing the risk of tooth decay, gum disease, and dental infection.
Addressing the position of your teeth using a hidden brace will also reduce the issue of uneven wear. Crooked teeth often wear down when they do not align correctly. By straightening your teeth, we can prevent this gradual damage from occurring.
Why Choose Lingual Braces Over Traditional Braces?
One of the most common reasons for having lingual braces fitted instead of traditional braces is that these invisible orthodontics are behind the teeth. If you are concerned about feeling self-conscious wearing your conventional fixed brace during teeth straightening treatment, your lingual brace will not be on show. This makes this treatment option ideal for teenagers and adults alike.
Traditional and incognito fixed braces are both proven effective for treating a wide range of orthodontic problems. Here are the differences between the two treatment options.
How Effective Are Lingual Braces Compared to Traditional Braces?
An Incognito brace works like traditional metal braces to apply force against your teeth. The lingual brackets are made-to-measure so they match the shape of the backs of your teeth. Because they are custom-made, it often improves treatment times while retaining the same level of effectiveness as conventional braces.
How Discreet Are Lingual Braces Compared to Traditional Braces?
Traditional braces are fixed to the front of your teeth. While low-profile Damon braces and clear ceramic braces are more subtle than standard metal braces, they are still visible when you smile.
The beauty of lingual orthodontics is that they are completely hidden on the back of the teeth. There are very few occasions where your braces will be in view, making them the most subtle treatment option.
Because the brackets used in lingual braces are custom-made to fit on the back of your teeth and match their shape, the duration of the treatment is often reduced. The exact treatment length will vary depending on several factors.
What Is the Average Treatment Duration for Lingual Braces?
During your initial consultation, we will assess how long you will need to wear your braces. In some minor irregularities, lingual braces achieve exceptional results in just six months. More complex cases can take up to two years.
Following successful lingual brace treatment, you will need to wear a custom retainer. Wearing a retainer as instructed will ensure there is no regression. A retainer is similar to a mouthguard and is typically worn following most orthodontic treatments.
What Factors Affect Treatment Duration?
Complexity is the primary factor that influences the length of your treatment. A mild misalignment may require very small movements on just a few anterior teeth. Addressing minor crowding on the prominent front teeth provides fantastic cosmetic benefits quickly.
More complex malocclusions may involve more wire adjustments and greater movements across more teeth.
Comparison of Treatment Duration for Lingual Braces to Traditional Braces?
Treatment times using lingual and conventional braces are often very similar. However, because the appliance is tailored to suit your teeth, there is a possibility that lingual braces provide results slightly quicker. In some situations, the treatment may take longer.
Attending all scheduled appointments and avoiding hard food that could damage your brace are ways to ensure your treatment is not longer than our initial estimate.
Are Lingual Braces Painful?
Before any orthodontic treatment, it is natural to consider whether the braces will cause discomfort. As incognito braces face towards the tongue, you will not feel them against the inside of your gums as you might with conventional braces. Instead, you will feel them against your tongue.
With any orthodontic appliance, you will need to take time to adjust to your lingual braces. During this time, you may experience some discomfort and side effects. Typically, most patients adjust to their new braces within the first few weeks of treatment.
What Are the Side Effects of Lingual Braces?
Wearing lingual braces can affect your speech. Any difficulties speaking will normally occur at the start of your treatment. This is because your tongue may come into contact with your brace.
You may talk with a lisp as you get used to the braces. Additionally, you may also find it challenging to produce sounds that naturally require pushing your tongue towards the back of your teeth. This will affect words with “s”, “sh”, and “th” sounds.
Most people find that speech problems are temporary. After around two weeks, you will have gotten used to the braces being there and find it easier to pronounce words as normal. The best way to overcome speech problems during this initial phase of treatment is to practice. Trying to pronounce words you struggle with will help you get used to the presence of the brace.
You may find that the tip of your tongue gets sore as you become familiar with wearing your braces. Many patients tend to explore their brace with their tongue, which can lead to soreness. You can reduce this discomfort with a saltwater rinse.
Due to the position of your braces, you may find it difficult to bite or chew crunchy foods. Where possible, chop your food up before biting and avoid anything that may damage your brace.
Brushing your teeth also requires special care. Food debris and plaque will build up around your brace, so it is vital that you are thorough during cleaning.
Discomfort Levels Associated With Lingual Braces
You may experience some discomfort for the first two or three days after we fit your brace. This is because you will feel constant tension across the wires. This dull ache will subside naturally.
After two weeks of wearing your brace, you should be used to it. Following this, you may notice similar discomfort when adjusting your brace. Again, this is usually very brief.
Comparison to Conventional Braces
Conventional braces do not usually cause speech problems because they are on the outside of the teeth. As a result, it is rare to experience issues forming letter sounds or words.
You may notice similar discomfort when wearing traditional braces as you get used to the brace’s tension. As with lingual braces, this usually lasts for two or three days. Overall, you should not experience more discomfort wearing lingual braces than other fixed braces.
Tips for Managing Pain and Discomfort While Wearing Lingual Braces
As you get used to wearing your lingual braces, you may experience slight inflammation in the surrounding areas. There are ways you can reduce this and manage your discomfort.
Sucking on ice, drinking cold drinks, and eating ice cream are all ways to numb and soothe the inflammation. Reducing the temperature like this will slow the blood flow in the area.
Using a numbing gel from your local pharmacist can also help relieve pain. This is particularly useful at night if the discomfort prevents you from sleeping.
If you experience any additional discomfort while chewing, sticking to soft foods for a few days after having your brace fitted can help.
Lingual braces can achieve the same great results in treating various malocclusions as other fixed braces; however, they remain hidden behind your teeth. This makes them a popular choice for anyone who worries about their smile’s appearance during treatment.
The first stage in finding out whether lingual braces are right for you will be to have a thorough assessment, including a scan of your teeth. Dr Chaw Su Kyi is one of the few London orthodontists able to provide lingual braces to all her patients. As an experienced Specialist Orthodontist, she has pioneered using Incognito hidden braces in the UK and specialises in complex adjustments.
Call today to schedule your lingual brace assessment.
West London Orthodontics offers the most advanced orthodontic care for children and adults. Serving patients in Hammersmith, Shepherd's Bush, and Chiswick, Dr Kyi and her team specialise in various brace options, including Invisalign. Book a consultation today.